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Sláinte, Ireland.

Lauren Greco

I attempted to push the thought to the back of my mind, but I knew I could not deny it any longer. It was finally time to say goodbye to the beautiful green countryside of Ireland and hello again to the skyscrapers and sidewalks of Chicago. Although the end was bittersweet, the 8 weeks that led up to that end were full of memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

As I finished my last day of work at the Bank of Ireland, I could not help but reflect on the unique opportunity I had been given. I was able to not only learn about an international business environment in the classroom, but I was then able to live within that environment every day for an entire summer. As much as listening to professors in a lecture hall can help aid a student’s understanding of a business practice, environment or process, there truly is nothing like actually being able to immerse oneself in that environment. I was able to understand the financial markets of the country, learn about the public’s opinions of the financial services sector, attend a press conference with the CEO of the Bank and various national and international news outlets, and make long-lasting connections to businesspeople in Europe. In terms of my professional growth, I cannot express how much this summer has meant to me.

While professional growth is important, more importantly I grew as a person in a way that will affect all aspects of my life, not just my future career path. I found myself feeling and acting more independent than I already was, learning how to adapt to my surroundings, and how to make the best of a situation. When I look back to who I was just a few short weeks ago, I can honestly say that going to a different country for a whole summer and not knowing anyone before going has changed me for the better. I feel more confident and ready to take on whatever may come my way.

Interestingly enough, I think the biggest thing I learned from my study abroad experience was to appreciate everything I have and the finite amount of time I have left in college. I distinctly remember sitting in my apartment in Dublin and realizing that I was already halfway done with my college career, and in two short years I will have to say goodbye to Bloomington and enter the unknown of the “real world”. I promised myself right then and there that I would make the most of my time left in Bloomington, similarly to how I tried to make the most of my time in Ireland. Studying abroad has truly opened my mind to the endless possibilities of the world, and some of them are right in front of me. There are so many things that I haven’t done or experienced that I can do right in Bloomington, Indiana, and that realization already has me excited for the upcoming school year and what I can do to make it memorable.

I cannot express enough how valuable my time in Ireland was. I met great friends, traveled to places I never thought I would ever see, did things at work I never thought I would be able to do at such a young age, and saw a true development in myself, both personally and professionally. For me, it was not a difficult goodbye when leaving Ireland, because I cannot imagine not going back one day. Although I had to leave my summer adventure in Europe behind me, I already cannot wait for the future opportunities that the world may present me with. So, here’s to you Ireland. Sláinte.

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Tips for a Successful Internship Experience Abroad

Lauren Greco

It is insane to think that I am almost done with my 8 weeks abroad. I have made so many great friends and connected with so many people at my internship and elsewhere, that it has come to the point where I am starting to feel like this is my actual, everyday life. I have learned so much over the past few weeks, especially concerning how to adapt to a different culture and way of life.  I thought that for this post, I would provide you with a handy list of things to keep in mind if you decide to participate in a study abroad internship, or really any study abroad program!

  • Be knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in, and specifically the industry in the country you’re working in. As a Marketing and Economic Consulting major, I was really nervous about working at a bank, as finance is not something that I particularly enjoy or understand. I kept thinking to myself, if I didn’t understand finance in the US then how would I understand it in another country? Luckily, I am working in the Communications department, which is not heavily focused on the technical financial services sector. I have been given the opportunity to do the work that I enjoy in an industry I thought I had no place in.
  • Along with understanding the industry, it is important to understand the economy of the country you are working in. Ireland suffered from the global economic crisis in 2008 just like many other countries around the world, but it has taken them a long time to rebuild themselves. Because Ireland is such a small country, they are still, to this day, struggling financially. Additionally, the banks are not looked upon favorably, as many say the banks are what caused the crisis in the first place. Because of that, it has been very interesting to work in a bank and understand public sentiment towards the whole financial sector.
  • One last thing that you should have some knowledge on – be informed of any general or big news stories that have emerged in your host country.  Irish people are very well-informed and have even told me about American news stories.  Especially in a work environment, people chat about what’s going on around the city and country before diving into work for the day, so you don’t want to appear apathetic towards what is going on in your host country.  Just a week ago, for example, you could not go anywhere and NOT hear about Garth Brooks and how he canceled all of his upcoming concerts in Dublin.  Apparently the Irish are huge fans of Garth Brooks (who knew?!) and it was quite controversial that he canceled his concerts.  While this might be a ridiculous topic of conversation, people at work would have looked at me like I was the ridiculous one if I was not following the Garth Brooks saga.  Long story short, being well-informed will allow you to make a good impression and also have substantial conversations with your coworkers.
  • If you don’t understand what someone is saying, politely ask them to repeat themselves. Ireland is similar to the US in that everyone speaks English. However, I never thought I would be in a situation when I literally could not understand a single word someone said, and they were supposedly speaking the same language as me. No one will take offense to you asking for them to repeat themselves, so don’t worry about it!
  • Get to know your coworkers. I have already met a really nice girl who is an intern at Bank of Ireland and she is from Ireland. She has basically designated herself to be our ultimate tour guide and has given us great tips on what to do in Dublin that isn’t super “tourist-y”. Additionally, I have also received great tips about things to do and places to see to enrich my experience from some of my other colleagues. They’re excited to talk about their country and where you should go, and it’s a great way to get a conversation going and establish a connection!
  • Don’t let yourself get into a standard routine. Working 9-5 and then just going straight home can be boring. Remind yourself every so often that you are in another country and you should live your experience to the fullest. Go out after work! Take the long way home! Grab a coffee from the cute local coffee shop down the street! Believe me, after working for 9 hours I am so tempted to lay in bed and watch Netflix with a jar of Nutella and a spoon to keep me company. But I’ve gone out and explored Dublin after work a few times and run into some really interesting areas and places to go. Netflix and Nutella can wait until you’re in Bloomington and wishing you were back in [insert country you studied abroad in here].

These are just some of the random tips and tidbits I have gathered over the course of the last few weeks, and I’m not even finished with my program yet! I know everything is coming to a close soon, however, so I plan on doing as much as I can in the little time that I have left. Studying abroad, and especially interning abroad, is all about immersing yourself in the culture of the country you are residing in, and I hope that I have done that to the fullest extent thus far.

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New Kid on the Block

Lauren Greco

The night before a big event almost guarantees 8 hours of dealing with your heart about to pound out of your chest, stomach in knots, and mind running wildly. Whether it be the night before the first day of school for us nerds out there, the night before a big game for an athlete, or even the night before going on a vacation, most people can recall the feeling that you get while lying in your bed with your mind racing a thousand miles a minute, anticipating something in the near future. This is the exact state of mind that I was in just one week ago, the night before the first day of my international internship experience.

Imagine you are a freshman in high school again—not that anyone really wants to go back to that time in their life—but think back for a few seconds and remember how you felt walking into your high school for the first time. Sure, you might have known a few peers, or maybe you knew a lot of your classmates, but it was still unchartered territory for most. Walking into a corporate office alongside important looking people in business suits, I felt like I was 14 again standing outside the main doors to my high school. Sure, I might have looked the part, dressed in a black suit and wearing high heels, but I sure didn’t feel like I belonged. Not to mention, for anyone that has seen The Devil Wears Prada, I was convinced that while I sat in a boardroom waiting for my manager, I would be met with Meryl Streep’s character from the movie. I panicked, thinking that I would be ordered to fetch 13 specifically-ordered Starbucks drinks and pick up dry cleaning.

This was all obviously a bit ridiculous of me, and the second I met my manager any of my worries were diminished. We chatted over a cup of coffee and got to know a little bit about each other. My first day ended up being a great success, and I even got to start working on research for an annual company report. Aside from the actual work, being that this is an internship in another country, there are definitely some cultural differences that I have had to get used to. For example, while a corporate hierarchy exists, it is pretty laid back and relaxed. Immediately, I was told to call everyone by their first names and interrupt anyone at any time if I had any questions. This completely aligns with the general disposition of Irish people. They are very welcoming, kindhearted, and simply nice people. I can fully say that now, having completed a full week of my internship, I am excited to see where the next 6 weeks take me.  For anyone that may be thinking of studying abroad and doing an internship abroad, while I did deal with a slight learning curve, I am sure that by the end of my time in Dublin I will take with me more than just work experience.

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South Side Irish

Lauren Greco

Flying over the city of Chicago and looking at the skyline from a bird’s eye view is one of my favorite sights in the world. As I write this blog post, I am 10,000 feet above the city that I call home, ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I truly understood where I came from and that I even had a unique cultural background. Since starting college, I’ve noticed that 1) people within a 50-100 mile radius of Chicago will say that they are from Chicago, and 2) when I tell people that I am actually from Chicago, they assume that I can see the Sears Tower from my bedroom window or that I eat Giordano’s pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. While that would be kind of awesome, this is not the case. Chicago is much more than the 8 block radius from the center of the city, and, sorry, but you can find pizza that’s a lot better than Giordano’s.  There are over 77 neighborhoods that 2.5 million Chicagoans call home, each with unique traits. For example, there is a neighborhood where you can find fantastic Greek cuisine, while another neighborhood is home to a Polish cultural center. All of these neighborhoods have their own cultural identity, and my neighborhood is no exception.

My neighborhood, located on the south side of the city, is home to a large Irish-American Catholic community. Irish culture is rich throughout the neighborhood, including the presence of an Irish style castle, the largest number of Irish style pubs in the city, and one of the biggest neighborhood parades outside of Dublin that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. I grew up taking Irish dance classes and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as one of the main holidays of the year. There is even a song called “South Side Irish” that, on the day of the parade, plays as often as “It’s A Small World” at Disney World.  Needless to say, I have been lucky to experience a rich ethnic culture right in my own backyard, but the opportunity to experience that rich ethnic culture in its original country is going to be incredible.

If you haven’t caught on by now, I will be spending the summer in Dublin, Ireland through a Kelley School of Business study abroad program.  This program is a bit different than a traditional study abroad program – I will be taking classes, but I also have an internship. As an intern for the Bank of Ireland in their Governance Risk and Communication department, I will not only be placed in a professional working environment, but I will be placed in that environment in a foreign country. That prospect may be intimidating to some, but I could not be any more excited. I enjoy meeting new people and learning about their backgrounds and cultures, and participating in this program will allow me to do just that.  I cannot wait to see how the Irish traditions compare with my culture at home, and I know these next two months will be unforgettable.

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